Expressing Your Personal Brand in Your Blog

It’s day three on our blog tour and today we’re headed over to Donna Fitch’s blog! Click below to see the video!


Last week I had the privilege to speak at the St. Louis Chapter of the Association of Funding Professionals Annual Conference about Marketing Secrets of Donor Centered Fundraising. The session was packed with the top fundraising professionals in St. Louis from the Development Team of the Missouri Botanical Garden to Managers of the St. Louis Science Center to Professionals at Teach for America and so many others.

In the session, I told them that there were three main areas that they need to focus on for the most effective donor centered fundraising: target audience, their organizational brands, and themselves! That’s right, to do more effective work for their organizations, they need to do more bring more of themselves to their work.

I shared how being true to a brand resulted in an 18% growth in funds raised, a 233% increase in new donors, and a 534% in ROI. I also talked about the critical role storytelling plays in marketing. We reviewed the development of the “Your Story is Our Story” campaign that I led with my marketing team at Jewish Federation of St. Louis. Check it out here!

Sharing the power of storytelling, how to apply the classic branding best practices to the not-for-profit world, and connecting with hundreds of St. Louis’ fundraising professionals was an amazing way to spend the day. If you have the opportunity to go next year, I highly recommend it! Hope to see you there next year!


I’ve been working to finalize my book and get it published. When I was literally about two weeks away from publication, I thought I’d double check a few things…including the title. I looked at it as merely a formality, as I had researched it about three years ago when I originally had the idea for the book. I considered it all part of “crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.” I did a search on Google and search on Amazon to see what else was out there…and something came up that I hadn’t seen before. It led me to dig a little deeper and a little deeper and then realized there might be an issue.

Oh no.

I touched base with the trademark lawyer, who advised against using the name that I’ve been using because someone has a trademark on it. While you can’t trademark a book title, you can trademark courses and programs related to a book. Since I planned to conduct seminars and teach people how to develop their personal brands, I knew I needed to be mindful of trademark issues. It didn’t really matter for the book title itself, but for the courses that would correspond to the book, the title I had chosen would be problematic.

I was devastated.

Here I was, all ready to go. I had the (which I’ve had for several years), everything designed and laid out–the works. But because of my background in branding, I knew that this could be very tricky.

So I fell back and regrouped.

With the help of family and friends, I explored a bunch of different options and finally narrowed it down to what I felt was a good title and subtitle, one that still integrated the core concepts I have been espousing without violating anyone’s trademark.

I used to do my initial research. This is a super handy site if you’re looking at branding questions. You can search on words, phrases and marks that are filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Just to be safe, I hired a lawyer from for a 15 minute consultation. I was skeptical going into the call that it might be a scam, that she would only try to upsell me to a more expensive consultation (I had been given another quote for a thousand dollars to get advice on the exact same research). But that is not what happened at all! I got great advice quickly and was able to move forward with confidence that I was on solid ground.

I’m actually really happy with where I landed, and I think it’s even stronger than what I had before. Throughout this process, I’ve learned:

  • Sometimes our setbacks are really a set up for something even better!
  • is a viable solution for simple legal questions.
  • If you’re an entrepreneur and need to be mindful of your brand trademark issues, be sure to do your homework and triple check that you’re in the clear before moving forward!

So now the name of the book is Your Branding Edge: How Personal Branding Can Turbocharge Your Career. Let me know what you think of the new name!


How does your personal brand convey during interviews? On the eve of many college graduations, I thought I would offer recent college graduates some free interview advice.

I have found that, in general, truth is always more unbelievable than fiction. I have been on all sides of the hiring process–as hiring manager, voting member of the team, and interviewee. I’m always astonished at the crazy things people do and say in interviews. The following is a list of DON’Ts that actually happened, outrageous behaviors I have personally witnessed in interviews.

  1. DON’T Show up late. The candidate was in the final round of interviews–with the CEO of the organization!!! She showed up 25 minutes late and didn’t really apologize or explain herself! What was she thinking?
  2. When asked “what is your dream job?” DON’T describe something totally different than the job or career for which you are applying. I understand explanations about how this position you’re interviewing for might be a steppingstone to your perfect job, but I had a VP/COO candidate for a nonprofit organization who told me his ideal job was to be a Broadway producer. Dead serious. Wanted to be in the theater. I don’t even know what to say about that.
  3. DON’T answer the question, “why are you interested in this position?” with “because the money is really good.” While that may very well be true, no one likes a moneygrubbing job whore.
  4. DON’T admit to being dumb as a stump. I believe the exact words the person used were “I barely graduated. It was a miracle they gave me a diploma!” In general, stupidity is not a desirable personal branding trait. This falls under the category of TMI (Too Much Information) and happens with staggering regularity.
  5. DON’T describe how you always wanted to work for [insert wrong company name here]. Do your research. At the very least, look up the website of the organization’s name and remember it!
  6. DON’T lie about what you did or about where you worked. Background checks, people! You have to know that somehow, you’re going to be found out!
  7. When someone explains that a drug test will be needed when applying for this job, DON’T ask, “what kinds of drugs do you test for?” Big red flag.
  8. DON’T hit on the person doing the interview. Just to be clear, you need a job, not a date! Enough said.
  9. DON’T lean in conspiratorially and make racially-charged remarks about people of another faith or ethnicity. The remarks this person made were so offensive, I can’t even repeat them here.
  10. DON’T admit that you’ve been on “literally hundreds of job interviews and no one will hire me.” This does not instill confidence in the interviewer about hiring you, and it will not boost your personal brand.

I’d love to hear your horror stories of bad interview behavior. Help me build a list of crazy things you’ve experienced during job interviews too! Tell me what dreadful/hilarious/unspeakable things people have done or said on a job interview with you.

Thanks in advance for adding to the comments below. I can’t wait to hear what you have to tell me!


I’m so excited—just learned I’ve been picked as one of the speakers for the Association of Funding Professionals (AFP) St. Louis’ 2014 Annual Conference. The title of the session I’ll be leading is “Turbocharge Your Fundraising: Getting Personal with Your Donor-Centered Fundraising.”

I’ve spent the past two years developing marketing programs for Jewish Federation of St. Louis, a large non-profit community development organization that raises millions of dollars for the St. Louis Jewish community…. and now I’m going to share that knowledge with others!

Here’s the description of the session:

No two fundraisers are the same, so why should your donor conversations come from a canned script? Add your personal branding touch to today’s best practices to take your fundraising to a whole new level. With case studies that show how being true to your brand can have a tangible impact on dollars raised, this session will teach you how to weave donor passions, your organization’s mission and your personal brand together for heart-to-heart conversations that move people to action!

Learn from a branding expert about how to connect with donors that share your passion to turbocharge your donor relationships, your communications efforts, and your overall fundraising results. Discover how to translate your brand in the most authentic—and effective—way possible! By learning what motivates your donors, you’ll be able to present your organization’s mission in a way that resonates. In this session, you’ll learn how to:

  • Increase the authenticity and intensity of your donor conversations
  • Relate on a more personal level to your donors
  • Translate your brand authentically (even on mass appeals!)
  • Tell motivating stories that donors want to hear
  • Develop communications that are donor-centered and brand-centered at the same time

Tap into donor passions for the most meaningful long-term relationships

If you’re involved in a nonprofit, join me September 24 at the Renaissance Hotel at the St. Louis airport. If you register before July 31, you’ll get a discount off the registration fee.

Click here to register.


Written by Rahna Barthelmess origninally for Southworth Blog

In branding, how you present something is just as important (if not more important) than what you present. Cooks understand this when they spend a long time deliberating over which plate to use and what garnishes to use when putting a superb dinner together. It’s not just about the flavor of the food. It needs to be as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the taste buds.

When I first graduated from college, I had the privilege to land one of the few coveted positions at a top New York ad agency in their account executive training program. Agencies don’t offer this type of specific training any more, but at the time, it was a program that formally took trainees through a rigorous program designed to teach all aspect of advertising training—
creative development, research, media planning and buying.

One of the most meFresh Eggs Sign with fresh paintmorable lessons I learned was that the medium must match the message. To illustrate the point, the CEO showed a very homemade-looking sign written in dripping paint that read, “Fresh Eggs.” He asked if we would be motivated by this
advertisement to stop and buy eggs. We all agreed that perhaps we would.

Flying Lessons sign with wet paintHe then showed the same type of handmade looking sign with the same dripping paint that read, “Flying Lessons” and asked if we would be similarly motivated by this ad. We laughed and indicated that it did not have the same impact. He explained that while the dripping paint reinforced the freshness of the eggs, when used for the flying lessons, it indicated a lack of professionalism.

It is a lesson I have never forgotten. As I advise my clients on their branding efforts, I am ever mindful that the media I recommend is just as important as the words and pictures chosen. Every element in the branding process needs to reinforce the brand image we’re trying to convey. Consistency is critical.

This is why it’s important to spend time focusing on how your Powerpoint presentation looks or the best paper to print your Leave Behind on. Because when it comes to branding, presentation matters.